Miscellaneous meanderings

Had the annual hard rubbish collection for the area last week.  As always, it is an opportunity to get rid of a whole raft of things that have been clogging up the works.  In my case, it is often heavily made up of shed-generated rubbish, which more often than not, is the result of previous projects.

So the hard rubbish collection ends up briefly being a reliving of projects past.  This time it included a large pile of offcuts and waste from the CNC Router.  Sure have run some miles up on the router bits this year!

Speaking of which, opened the mail yesterday to a new collection of router bits I’d ordered from Toolstoday.com.  This set is the collection for plastic cutting as I have plans for some upcoming projects.

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An interesting video on the golden ratio, which is a commonly used ratio in creating aesthetically pleasing objects, such as box and furniture proportions.

And finally, a bit of a weekend woodworking project for someone….

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Getting the Festool Lowdown

Went along to a Festool evening recently at Total Tools, to see what the latest offerings from Festool were all about.

The C18 driver was shown, although I already have the T18, so they seemed pretty similar.

What was particularly interesting was the new circular saw.  This isn’t a plunge saw as is the norm for Festool, but a much more stock standard CS design.  Of course there are still the typical mods that Festool are known for.  It is driven by an 18V battery for one.

It is the HKC55 160mm cordless circular saw.

Photo 15-10-2015 17 25 43A quick flick of one latch, and the saw still works as a plunge saw.

What really seemed to set this saw apart though is the guide rail.  This is not your grandmother’s guide rail.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.53.46 amThis one locks to the bottom of the HKC55, and effectively becomes a part of the saw.  A ‘bungee cord’ mechanism engages with the saw and returns the saw to the start of the rail after a cut.

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An easy-to-use angle-setting system on the side of the rail makes it very easy to set up for angled cuts, and by angling the saw over, it effectively becomes a portable SCMS, with a long travel distance.

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Bit hard to show with a few photos. Found this video on Festool UK.  Probably better watched with the sound muted!

So an interesting evening, getting to look at a couple of the new products from Festool.  Interesting too, seeing it with people in the trades, who are quite vocal in expressing what they need to see, and what they don’t in a demo.  If it is not a tool they specifically need to use for their job, they have no interest whatsoever, and are quite prepared to express that fact.

Came away with a showbag which is always a bit of fun.  Sadly, I didn’t find a HKC 55 in the bag, but I did get a few Festool-branded items – cap, travel mug, stubby holder, carpenter’s pencil, and a Festool carpenter’s rule.  Seeing as that normally sells for $15, I’m not complaining 🙂

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Spotted!

One of the regular readers (Michael) spotted a very rare beast indeed in the aisle of his local Masters store. (Thanks for sending through the pic).

This would be the first time that any of the box warehouses has had this particular item in stock for a very long time – perhaps as far back as when Bunnings refused to stock any more GMC products (which included Triton), back in August 2008.

So this is a sight for saw eyes (yes, the pun is intentional).

Triton

I’m surprised it is not the WC7 model – fresh start, fresh product.

Checking the model number, it looks to be 101956.

Been so long since I’ve seen one!  I think the fence is on the wrong side, but it is only a hazy memory these days.  Can’t imagine if things went full circle, and a demo program started again.  That’d be too funny (in an ironic kinda’ way).

Definitely brings back fond memories.  I’d even go to a demo night if one was on, just to experience it again.

There is no fate

At least not till next year, as the school fete has come to an end.  After 8 or so hours, a bit weary, but it was fun.

Quite an interesting learning curve – got a lot right enough, but there is always more than can be refined, if I ever intend to do this again!  I do have one other planned fete coming up in November, but that is about it.

Fun seeing the kids’ reactions.

The display stand with the black cloth covering it, is the Centipede XL which I just got back after lending it at the start of the year.  It is perfect for this sort of thing.  I made a top from 6 panels of MDF which were cable-tied together to create one overall top.  This allows me to take the top off and fold it up for storage/transportation.  I made it from 3mm MDF as that is what I had to hand, but 6mm or 9mm MDF would have been better.  As the MDF only has a few holes drilled right at the extremities for the cable ties, I can still then use the pieces on the CNC machine 🙂  It worked very well – easy to transport, easy to set up, and stable.  (Does that make it a stable table?).  In comparison the vacuum-formed tables are reasonably easy to transport (they weight quite a bit more but have much less surface area) and quicker to set up (if you factor in attaching the top).

That gets me thinking – I could come up with a segmented top for the Centipede, which engages with the holes in the leg caps.  That would remove the need for cable ties and make a really rigid (crossbraced) system.  Make a good way to use it as a workbench as well.  Alternately, I could recess out the area where the top of the leg touches the top, so the whole top piece can still be stored perfectly flat.  I’ll work on that, and let you know what I come up with!

Sales were ok, not unreasonable, not as high as I would have expected.  I did a quick gender comparison – ie assuming some models would appeal to one gender more than the other (and those that would appeal more to both).  It is a really rough tool – for example, I chose a swan to be oriented towards girls, and a cobra to be something that would appeal more to boys, and a turtle to be neutrally biased.  That might infuriate some people, but the reality is that if you got a bunch of primary school students and gave them the choice (with no observers, or chance that classmates etc would ever know the choice made), that certain toys would be selected disproportionally higher for one gender over the other.

The analysis is very loose – I did not record the gender of who was making the purchases, or who they were purchasing for, so already there is a lot of interpretation built into these stats.

Toy Variety

Girls liked a lot less variety than boys in the toys chosen.

Of the total variety of girl-oriented toys, sales were concentrated around 41% of the range available.
Of the neutral toys, 53% of the variety available were purchased.
For boys, 75% of the range had at least one sale made.

Kits vs Preassembled models

This data is not very relevant, as the models were only able to be collected at the end of the day, whereas kits taken straight away.  Additionally, there was only one of each type assembled, and between 0 and 10 kits available.

Girls’ purchases were 71% kits
Neutral purchases were 53% kits
Boys’ purchases were 78% kits

Total Sales

Of all the purchases available:

Total sales of girls-oriented models: 20%
Total sales of neutral-oriented models: 23%
Total sales of boy-oriented models: 56%

As very few types sold out completely, this data was not heavily influenced by particular models becoming unavailable.

Other interesting observations – quite a few people looking (kids and adults) – “Wow, these are really cool”, then after checking the price “Wow, these are really cheap” (the vast majority being around the $5-$7.50 mark).  However even after uttering both those comments, the person looking around would then wander off.  Interesting that something that is regarded as “cool and affordable” still does not necessarily result in a sale.

I would have sold more if there was no restrictions on whether the person could buy and take the pre-assembled model, so having two or three of the most popular kits pre-assembled would be beneficial.

It may also be better if there was less variety of kits available, and so people could select the ones they want for purchase, rather than having to ask for them.  While this makes perfect sense (and is how we shop most of the time), it is a lot harder to do this in a market-like scenario with limited space.  Especially with bulky products that have a degree of fragility to them.  Again, if I was doing this on a regular basis, I would be able to justify the additional investment in the multiple storage containers needed to keep everything sorted.  For a one (or two) off, that is less practical.

All in all though, it was a fun evolution, and I’d do it again.

Occasionally!

Mass Construction

Things have been pretty full-on around here recently.

In addition to the standard fare, I have been really churning out things on the CNC.  Sheet after sheet of 3mm MDF getting turned to Swiss cheese as I make up small kits in time for a fundraising school fête this weekend.  There are now over 250 individual kits, all bagged up in zip-lock bags, with a set of instructions on assembly, and an assembled example model of each design ready to go on display.

I’m not selling them for much – $5 for many of the designs, with the larger ones being $7.50 or $10 as they really scale up.  The idea is to cover cost plus a bit for the fundraising, and still keep them affordable enough for primary school kids to afford.  With each kit taking on average 30 minutes to cut out, it means the CNC is cutting way below what you would normally calculate its hourly rate at, but that is not the intention for the weekend.

The designs I am using all come from MakeCNC.com.  It raises a question about copyright – this is not just taking someone else’s concept and producing your own equivalent to sell, in this case it is actually using their designs to produce something for sale.  It is actually covered as part of the contract you agree to when purchasing the MakeCNC design.  You are allowed under the condition of the purchase of the plans, to make up to 50 of each design and include a set of instructions with each.  Given that the Mega Collection I originally purchased has over 150 designs, that lets me make 7500 models for sale (if that is what I was looking to do) and still be complying with the copyright terms I agreed to.

While some (quite vocally) disregard CNC machining as being woodworking, that doesn’t bother me at all.  This is taking the workshop I have, and producing a product that is marketable (well I hope it is marketable – this weekend will be a good litmus test!) That is a fun concept in itself, and reinforces what I like to try to get my woodworking to be – cost neutral, at least as far as possible.

It is nothing more, or less, than a cottage industry, which is a throwback to the 17th and 18th centuries (which persisted until the mid 19th until it was really replaced by the industrial revolution).  I like that concept.  A small number of people (often one) working away in a niche market to produce quality goods.  In this day and age, when everything is made in vast quantities, in factories overseas, the fact there are some items still available produced individually and with particular attention to quality and detail has a lot of appeal.

Oct / Nov of The Shed is out

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Latest issue out has my waterwheel (as seen in the thumbnail pic on the cover), and there is a 1 pge article in the back about Amana Tool/Toolstoday.com which I wasn’t aware of, discussing their products and availability down under.  Turns out, I’ve been quite influential in opening up the Australasian market.  Who’d have thunk it?!

We didn’t have enough time to get the waterwheel plans into the magazine this time (ran very close to the wind for submission dates), so instead, here they are: (click on the image for the PDF).

waterwheel

 

A periodic table……table

An interesting concept.  I’m intrigued!

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